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Maliki calls on residents of Fallujah city

Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki on Monday called on the residents and the tribes in Fallujah city of Anbar province to eject the armed groups, the official television reported. The Iraqiya state-run channel said that Maliki, who is also the Commander-in-Chief of the Iraqi armed forces, called on "the people of Fallujah and its tribes to expel terrorists from the city neighborhoods since the areas are subjected to armed confrontations." Maliki also ordered the Iraqi army outside the city not to open fire on the residential neighborhoods in Fallujah, the channel said. During the past three days, the Iraqi army pounded Fallujah with artillery shells and mortar rounds from military bases outside the city, witnesses said.

Separately, the Ministry of Defense denied in a statement the reports which quoted the ground forces commander Staff General Ali Ghaidan as saying that the Iraqi army was preparing for a major offensive against Fallujah.

"The Ministry of Defense asserts that such information appeared on the media are untrue," the ministry confirmed.

Sporadic clashes in Anbar province entered the eighth day after tensions flared in the province last week, when Iraqi police dismantled an anti-government protest site outside Ramadi. In order to defuse the situation and avoid fighting the tribesmen, Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki ordered the army to withdraw from the cities in Anbar.

On Wednesday, clashes erupted in several Anbar's cities, including Ramadi and Fallujah, after al-Qaida militants broke into the cities and attacked several police stations, including the police headquarters in Fallujah just after the Iraqi army withdrew.

Late Wednesday night, al-Maliki said he changed his earlier decision to withdraw the army from riotous cities in Anbar province and would instead send reinforcements to the province where clashes continued.

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